Too old? Too small? The legend of Manny Pacquiao keeps growing

Too old? Too small? The legend of Manny Pacquiao keeps growing
Too old? Too small? The legend of Manny Pacquiao keeps growing

Manny Pacquiao is a true legend of the sport. He has won titles in eight weight divisions and is currently fighting for his 16th world title.

Manny Pacquiao is a Filipino professional boxer and politician. He has been in the sport of boxing for more than 20 years, with an undefeated record of 57 wins and zero losses. Read more in detail here: manny pacquiao next fight.

7:00 a.m. ET

  • ESPN’s Mark Kriegel

LOS ANGELES, Calif. — Manny Pacquiao works with a practiced care that belies both his wealth and his status as a presidential candidate back home in the Philippines. It’s strange to see a guy who has won purses in excess of $200 million wrapping his own hands. He ties his hands with gauze, then tape from the roll, gauze, then tape, ripped and shredded, till the hand resembles a weapon, a human club. He’s 42 years old. For as long as he can remember, he’s been doing this.

Pacquiao’s calves are another thing you can’t help but notice. They’re a big knot of corded muscle the size of other men’s quadriceps. His tube socks had been stretched to the point of becoming as thin as sausage casings.

“I remember you,” he replies, stroking his thin goatee with a sly grin. “You have a beard.”

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He’s referring to his own goatee. When we were introduced, it wasn’t gray. That was in October 2008, only a few months before he fought Oscar De La Hoya at the Wild Card gym in Hollywood. Protests erupted in the Philippines, with many believing Pacquiao was being led to his irreversible maiming or death at the hands of a much larger opponent. De La Hoya, who had previously fought as a junior middleweight, consented to a 147-pound bout. Pacquiao, who began his professional career at 106 pounds, has only fought once at 135, knocking out David Diaz for the WBC lightweight championship. Fearful protestations were in vain, as De La Hoya was thrashed mercilessly, his corner throwing in the towel after eight rounds.

“It was the greatest victory I’ve ever had,” Pacquiao adds. “Who would have guessed I’d win after going from 135 to 147?”

That battle was pivotal in the game’s outcome. Pacquiao, 29, was minted as that rarest of bona fide pay-per-view stars when De La Hoya retired at the age of 35. Pacquiao was the greatest and most entertaining boxer in the world for a period, with victories against Ricky Hatton, Miguel Cotto, Joshua Clottey, Antonio Margarito, Shane Mosley, and Juan Manuel Marquez. Let’s hope he’ll be that again on Saturday night when he fights Yordenis Ugas, a tough and dangerous Cuban from whom he’d want to win his record-tying fifth world championship at welterweight (not to mention the 154-pound world title he won in administering a frightful beating to Margarito).

Pacquiao’s actions are against every boxing rule. He’s no longer simply the tiny man; he’s also the elderly person.

Manny Pacquiao worked out at the Wild Card gym with Freddie Roach in preparation for his fight against Yordenis Ugas. MP Promotions is a company that specializes in promoting

In spite of his mentor’s greatest warning, Freddie Roach opened the Wild Card at 1123 Vine St. Eddie Futch had advised him, “Never start a gym.” “They only make money by losing money.” Not to mention the inconvenience.

Nonetheless, the Wild Card seems to be an appropriate metaphor for Pacquiao’s colossal career. It was a solitary, hot room above a laundry when he first came in, an unknown 122-pounder in need of a trainer and publicist, in the spring of 2001. The original gym space has now been doubled in size. There’s a second ring below for the professionals, a separate weight and training facility in the complex, and still another unit to store all the stuff, such as T-shirts, hoodies, and baseball hats. It’s the world’s most renowned gym, a regular stop for Hollywood tour buses, and its owner is the world’s most famous trainer.

Roach, a seven-time trainer of the year, adds, “Manny created this entire f—-ing facility.”

Pacquiao, on the other hand, was always pushing the boundaries of possible. Roach remembers seeing him play pool for the first time. They were in Texas at the time. Roach, who didn’t spend any time contacting his bookie, recalls, “He sunk eight balls with one stroke.”

“Can I place a wager on Manny Pacquiao?”

The following night inside the Alamodome, Marco Antonio Barrera was a 4-1 favorite. Barrera was unable to get out of the 11th inning.

Roach took home an additional $8,000 and learned a valuable lesson: never gamble against Pacquiao, the forerunner of his tremendous success.

In a roundabout manner, this takes me back to October 2008, when I was not gray and met Manny Pacquiao.

Roach assured me, “We’re going to knock him down in nine.”

And I’m thinking to myself, “C’mon.” Tell that to those opposing the “death match” in the Philippines.

Manny Pacquiao last fought in July 2019, winning a split decision against Keith Thurman. John Locher/Associated Press

Now it’s all coming to an end — not their luck, and definitely not the gym, but the period that gave birth to it. Pacquiao, who is considering a presidential bid in the Philippines, has just a few fights remaining.

Is his history still influencing his present at the age of 42?

On Saturday night, he was scheduled to face Errol Spence Jr. Spence, who has two welterweight championships, began his career as a 154-pounder in 2012. He’s a 31-year-old southpaw who’s 27-0 with 21 knockouts and looks like something out of a comic book, a middleweight shrink-wrapped down to welterweight. Even yet, the odds were similar to what they were coming into De La Hoya.

Spence was forced to withdraw from the bout on Aug. 9 due to a detached retina that required urgent surgery.

Pacquiao informed his advisor, Sean Gibbons, “I’m a fighter.” “I’m going to have to fight.”

After that, he prayed.

He had a contract to face Ugas the following morning, who had been prepared to defend his WBA championship in the Spence-Pacquiao co-main event. Although the former Cuban Olympian lacks Spence’s sheer devastating power, he is a natural welterweight who has fought as high as super middleweight, unlike Pacquiao.

Roach told me earlier this week, “Good fighter; I felt he beat Porter,” referencing to Ugas’ split-decision defeat to Shawn Porter in 2019. “Those Cubans know exactly what they’re doing. He’s got a huge right overhand.”

Pacquiao, on the other hand, was prepared for a lefty.

“Manny doesn’t give a damn,” Roach remarked. “Against Spence, he had to keep to the right and avoid the left. It’s the reverse with this guy: go left and keep away from the right…. He has the ability to knock this man out.”

“Will he?” I inquire.

“Yes, Manny will knock him out,” Roach said. “Shot from the hip. Last week, you should’ve seen how he took this man out in sparring.”

Pacquiao has only scored two knockouts since stepping up in 2008, so it’s an intriguing prop bet. However, with Spence’s withdrawal, he’s suddenly become a roughly 4-to-1 favorite. Despite this, the oddsmakers overlook everything he’s done since the De La Hoya bout. He’s turned the unusual appearance into a habit. He’s the tiny and elderly man. That has never been done before.

Fred Sternburg, his longtime publicist, adds, “That’s the least of it.”

Please tell me, Fred.

“The other day, I was at his home with him and all his men, and we were just eating buckets of KFC,” he adds. “No welterweight has ever done it the week before a bout in history.”

I’ll grant you that, Fred, it’s a long shot.

In Texas, it’s like sinking eight balls.

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